Women bishops ‘by end of the year’

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CHURCH leaders gave their backing this weekend to new legislation which could enable women to become bishops by the end of the year.

The Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod became the first diocese to vote on the package of legislation at its meeting at St Aidan’s High School in Harrogate,

The motion, which was proposed by the Bishop of Knaresborough, the Rt Rev James Bell and was overwhelmingly endorsed, read: “That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.”

Of the 75 members of Synod who voted, 72 voted in favour of the legislation, one voted against and two abstained.

Bishop James Bell, proposing the motion, told members that the legislation is very different to that narrowly rejected in 2012. “It contains a simple measure to enable the ordination and consecration of women as bishops. It is accompanied by a House of Bishops declaration – and then very significantly a resolution of disputes procedure.

“This new idea of a mechanism to be embedded in the whole package means that those who feel they haven’t been heard or their views haven’t been respected have recourse to an appropriate procedure.”

Broken down by “houses”, the House of Clergy voted unanimously in favour of the legislation, the House of Laity voted 35 in favour with one against and two abstentions and the Bishop of Knaresborough voted in favour.

The General Synod will be able to hold the final approval debate when it meets in July in York, less than 20 months after the failure of the earlier legislation to secure the necessary two-thirds majorities. If passed the legislation would then go to Parliament and could be in force before the end of the year.